Accidental Heroes: Britain, France and the Libya Operation - RUSI Interim Libya Campaign Report
RUSI News, 23 Sep 2011
By Professor Michael Clarke, Director General; Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director / Director, UK Defence Policy Studies; Dr Jonathan Eyal, Senior Research Fellow / Director, International Studies; Shashank Joshi, Research Fellow; Mark Phillips, Associate Fellow; Elizabeth Quintana, Senior Research Fellow, Air Power and Technology; Dr Lee Willett, Associate Fellow
- Britain and France found themselves, uniquely, in the lead in an operation where the US pulled out of the combat at an early stage;
- NATO found itself operating in new ways that will change the alliance;
- The operation was unlike any of those of the last decade, but more like those of two decades ago;
- The air and maritime campaign demonstrated the success of precision weapons but also their dependency on high tech ISTAR technologies;
- The maritime aspects of the campaign may re-ignite the 'aircraft carrier debate' in Britain.
- The RAF and the Royal Navy had to divert assets from other tasks to undertake this operation and successfully improvised some combat systems;
- Special forces operations on the ground were extensive and multinational. They helped turn the tide between the rebels and Qadhafi's forces.
A new RUSI report examines the diplomatic, strategic and military aspects of the campaign between February and September 2011.
Download the report >
Looking at the wider spectrum of operations from both the NATO and rebel side, this RUSI Interim Campaign Report analyses how the operation progressed and finally succeeded.
The report concludes that the allied military operation to assist Libya's National Transitional Council was successful despite the improvised use of weapons and military assets, together with ambiguous command arrangements.
The Interim Campaign Report also raises questions around the UK's Strategic Defence and Security Review as it reveals how the RAF and the Royal Navy had to divert assets from other tasks to undertake this operation and successfully improvised some combat systems.
Revealing how the air and maritime campaign demonstrated the success of precision weapons but also their dependency on high tech ISTAR technologies, the report draws striking parallels between the Libya operation of 2011 and the Kosovo intervention of 1999.
With some NATO and non-NATO countries involved in military action over Libya, the report suggests the operations were 'unlike any of those of the last decade, but more like those of two decades ago'.
Finally, this Report demonstrates how special forces operations on the ground were extensive and multinational. They helped turned the tide between the rebels and Qadhafi's forces and involved a significant contingent from a range of Arab countries.
Research for this report was provided by a range of RUSI analysts.
For more analysis on Libya, visit
Further Analysis: Libya, Middle East and North Africa